" Oh, one more night, 'cos I can't wait forever..."
One More Night - Phil Collins
"Nite Ba'y"...it's something that I have not heard DJ say in over three years; I miss it. She usually called me Ba'y, probably the most common corruption of the word Baby, sometimes Fred, among other things at times, but mostly Ba'y. I'm sure many of you can relate as I'm certain that the nome de familia your mate referred to you as, can evoke that special feeling and the accompanying memories as this does for me. Over the years since her death, as I've climbed into bed each night, at various times, the absence of hearing this has come to mind, early on producing many tears and heartache but gradually fading into feelings of melancholy and wistfulness, not so much producing tears, but that deep, truly gut wrenching feeling of a special hollowness which you Know cannot be filled. It's to be expected I imagine, this missing of things which were once so familiar, so comforting, so….them. As time has moved forward, the feelings things like this brings to the fore have also moved, shifted, taken on a different form. Much of the fear, discomfort and confusion they produced in those early times has dissipated and for me at least, has been replaced with a kind of resignation to facts which mostly only those grieving can really appreciate.
In a couple of months it will officially be three years since I watched and listened as DJ, laying back on her lounger and leaning slightly against me, drew her last earthly breath in the quiet early hours of a Tuesday morning in November. Almost four years of accelerated living for us was coming to an end and I sat numb and shocked as what we had talked about, lived with and dreaded during those years was actually coming to pass. As I monitored her last moments I remember being conflicted; in one aspect I felt relieved, her pain, suffering and fear was coming to an end; in another, a bewilderment and fear was taking hold and I did not have any idea of what was to come next and in many respects, then, I did not care. Some of that experience and other things about our life together have been recounted in other pages here on this site and the opportunity to put them into words have made a tremendous difference I think in my own Journey. Soon afterwards, as I experienced that period I have since heard so many here speak of, that time when you can feel that 'yes, I've got this…', that time when shock is truly in control and our minds and emotions are being protected from the total force of the implications of what has occurred, and I felt fairly certain that I was handling things as I should. But the reality of grief has to have it's way and after a while the hard reality begins to set in and we come to understand the full and complete impact of our losses. Like it is for many, it was a dangerous time for me, almost every single preconceived notion I had about how to move forward was brought into challenge and found wanting; my ability to know it all was proved to be of no use to me and I stood at the corners of my true self and the person I had thought I was and what I believed. This led me to a state of mind where throwing myself away appeared to be just as logical as making the effort at living forward…a dangerous time indeed.
It can be a scary time for us, and for me, attempting to find safe places for all the thoughts and emotions about what had happened has been the greatest challenge of my life to this point. It is understood that the event and the resulting efforts to come to terms with it is not limited to me, no, such a narrow focus would not do justice to any of us…all of us, this is simply my own reflections of how that event has affected me. As the shock faded and I came to better understand that I had no experience with this type of loss, through support and an honest effort on my part to make some sense out of the seemingly senseless, I have been able to have hope that the paths of the Journey, altho at times painful, can be navigated. This can be a hard thing to believe early on when everything in your life to that point is brought into question and plans, hopes and dreams are not just forced to be put on hold, but can be thoroughly dashed, with a finality which is devastating. For myself I found I had to truly embrace the idea of Hope…not just expound it in some flowery expressions to be posted here and there, but to actually begin to live it. It is one of the basic ideas I have had to try and carry forward with each step along the way one day at a time…sometimes even moment to moment. As our grief is not a competition, I will not attempt to relate any difficulties or compare that as being any worse than this, just some of the things which I have found myself dealing with.
In those young days as I would lay down each night, missing that oh, so familiar phrase, I found the act of saying my prayers difficult; after what had happened could I still sincerely include "thank you Lord for keeping our family healthy and our home safe…"; do I now omit the line "I am grateful for…"…I understand we all have different challenges, these were just some of mine. As I struggled with the onset of the hard realities and was forced to honestly face myself, in some measure I was able to make some answers for myself that made sense to me, answers which allowed me to be relieved of the burden of so many unnecessary what if's and whys. Coming to understand that I did not need to have all the answers was a liberating experience, making it easier for me to examine those things which haunted me with an eye of the mind which made finding some answers for and understanding a little better the life which DJ and I shared and myself as a human being that much easier. Looking back, I can recall those times when nights offered no sleep; when exhaustion was a constant companion and apathy ruled the day; times when just the thought of DJ would trigger enormous amounts of tears and car screaming became a regular past time for me; times when only the thought of harming someone else prevented me from making a left turn into oncoming traffic and when many of the trains at the nearby crossing seemed to be huge magnets attracting my car; times when I dreaded mounting the steps to our home because I knew DJ would not be inside when I opened that door; those times remain not so very far from the front of my mind. This is not to say those times don't still appear, they do, but now, with a better understanding and outlook, most times, their impact can be absorbed with those moments passing as I can better balance the events and the associated emotions. Of course the Waves still appear and I understand that now I am a permanent passenger on the special roller coaster of grief. Being able to accept that because of DJ's love and caring which has made up such a large part of my life, knowing that we have shared something so special, fully believing that just as there is a time for joy, there inevitably has to be a time for sadness and having a personal belief that all things must balance, today, I am better able to move along the Journey.
At times it can be difficult living without the familiar things which a rich shared life offers…the safe companionship, the knowledge of unconditional love, the quiet times, the special moments…but I have personally found that the human spirit is remarkably resilient. Making answers I can live with has been what has helped me most, being able to take a perspective I can claim to understand is allowing me make an honest effort at living forward. For sure like, easy, and other words relating to the difficulty involved do not come into play here, I think it's a decision we each must make and for me that decision is firmly based on Hope. I'm not so sure it really matters what we find to base it on, the point of the exercise, at least for those of us who truly care to, is that we continue living forward in an attempt to enjoy the gift of this state of being we call life. It took a while for me to really grasp the importance of this, ideas had to be examined, some long held thoughts had to be abandoned and many notions of what should be had to be discarded in order to make room for a different design for living forward in the different life. And in this approach to living forward, I realized the extent to which the success or failure depended on my ability to examine things honestly, at least to myself if no one else. In a big way it started with me admitting that I always knew that in my understanding and belief, things must balance; to me, the very meaning of the word life implied death; I had seen death before, family, friends and in combat. The fact that I chose not to think about either DJ or myself dying did not change the fact of that understanding and belief. Being able to admit that I had no concept of what losing a spouse might be like was a major step. So my issue came down to not being able to prepare for what life would be like without her and in that, I was not alone, none of us could. From that start it carried over into coming to understand that many of the things being faced in the different life and which appeared to cause me much distress, were things which had always existed, with their impact and importance being masked by sharing their nuances with someone special; lines are sometimes always long in any given store, making contact with this or that agency always seemed to take forever on the phone, appliances always break down at the most inopportune times, these and other things which before we seemed to have taken in stride can become sources of persistent irritation as we face them alone. For a while, almost every unexpected incident seemed to throw me for a loop, learning to remember that they were not new, just different now helped me to minimize the affect they had on me. Naturally this is just a portion of the effort but it may give an insight into how I am approaching the Journey, a Journey about the effects of which, I hear many of us ask, "Does it ever end…?". For me I am convinced it only ends with our own death, it is part of me, of my life's story and I think that's how it should be. Any portrait of my life would be incomplete and inaccurate without all of this being a part of it. So for me, yes, the memories remain, the thoughts of times gone by surprisingly, (and despite my thoughts very early on) remain fairly vivid and enjoyable…most times. Of course there are those moments, like the one I mention at the very start of this, when the hard realization hits home with full force, straight, no chaser and I am again brought face to face with the fact of DJ's absence. But now I don't have to question or attempt to define those times, accepting them as part of the different life is necessary in order for me to continue to live without so much doubt and pain. Early on it was suggested to me that one destination of the Journey might be to arrive at a point where we could have the memories without so much of the pain; today, for the most part I can say that is happening for me. Reliving the time we shared, I often find myself smiling as I think of DJ and the 'features' of her personality as expressed in the many various ways depending on the situation. Much of the piercing pain is not as apparent as before and the tears flow a lot less at those times. I was so afraid early on that either I would forget them, or that the thought of them would be so painful that I would not want to remember, thankfully, that has not happened. I'm sure all of this is being generated by the fact that over the next couple of months a few dates of importance are coming; September has the birthdays of our two oldest children, October contains DJ's and our youngest daughter birthdays as well as our wedding anniversary and November, along with Thanksgiving and her sister's birthday now has the date she died on, marking a full three years this time around. At one time September was actually the unofficial start of our holiday season with the birthdays starting a round of gatherings, cakes and fun times leading up to Christmas day. In a way we were fortunate that first year of her death as we were all in shock and feeling one way or the other about celebrating did not seem to matter much. Since then we have started new traditions in an effort to lessen the impact of the glaring fact that DJ is not here with us, and to try and initiate a new way of thinking about those times; I will say I think it is making them easier for us. As for the passage of time, well I'm sure you all can understand how that works…at once it seems like yesterday, then, at other times like it was so very long ago…a quirk of our human brains, but that's how it is.
So, on November 8, 2014 I'm sure I will have tears and sadness, but not much more of that than I carry around each day; the sting of her death can still be felt by me and the heart punches produced, remain fairly constant…it's just that my outward expressions of that hurt has changed. We can often hear or read of folks saying '' just one more…'' in relation to the times they have spent with their loved ones; I am no different, I would give anything to hear DJ say "Nite Ba'y…" just one more time... that's a lie, despite all I might have come to understand and know, regardless of all the answers I might be able to create, beyond any rational sense I might attempt to make of what has happened and the knowledge that it cannot be undone, apart from any reasoning I might try to convince myself with, I am left knowing that I don't want to hear those words just one more time, I want to hear that voice saying them, ringing in my head, right here, right now and for the duration…mercy…